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#STINGDAILY: Finding Personality

Oct. 31, 2012

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

Paul Johnson had a chat last weekend with Bronco Mendenhall, and what Georgia Tech’s head football head coaching learned in speaking with the BYU coach came up Tuesday when Johnson was asked about his team.

The first question of the weekly media conference was about Tech, specifically what is the personality of this year’s team. Johnson’s answer made sense given what has taken place on the field.

“There are a lot of different personalities; it is still a young team . . . so at times we have a hard time staying focused,” he said. “The maturity level is probably not what you would like all of the time, but you can’t put one description on them really.”

This would seem to be a way of saying that two-thirds of the way through the season, Tech is still in search of a personality. That’s less than ideal.

Later, in reviewing both the season to date and BYU, Johnson added: “The team that beat us Saturday is pretty good . . . I imagine they’re going to finish 8-4, with their losses being to two top 10 teams [Oregon State and Notre Dame], and to Boise State, who has lost one game.

“In the Utah game, they turned it over, had multiple chances to win the game; they missed the kicks. Bronco before the game told me they had 28 seniors.”

Combine all of this and you have a team looking to be better. The Jackets have been wildly erratic, and not just game to game. In multiple games they have trotted out multiple personalities.

It started right away, at Virginia Tech. The Yellow Jackets were stout defensively for three quarters or so before the Hokies moved with relative ease. Both Georgia Tech and Miami were schizophrenic on a quarter-to-quarter basis.

“[Against Boston College], clearly we lost focus at halftime when we got way up,” Johnson said. “I think that it can happen series to series sometimes. Momentum is a big deal I think, especially with a young team and when things don’t go well early, they can get down really quick . . .

Tech has three senior starters on each side of the ball: quarterback Tevin Washington, A-back Orwin Smith and guard Omoregie Uzzi. On defense, it’s linemen T.J. Barnes, Izaan Cross and cornerback Rod Sweeting.

Linebacker Jabari Hunt-Days and wide receiver Anthony Autry are the only freshmen who start, and Hunt-Days is a redshirt. Quarterback Vad Lee, another redshirt, will play Saturday at Maryland and Johnson is not discounting the possibility of him starting.

The relative shortage of seniors in prominent roles, or rather strong personalities who take leadership roles within the player ranks, has an effect. The Jackets have a hard time finding a rhythm, or hanging onto with a good vibe when they happen upon one.

Tech has work to do to become bowl eligible. They have to win at least three of their final four games, and the least intimidating of those contests is at Maryland. A win over the quarterback-challenged Terrapins would move the Jackets to .500 in the ACC with league games to follow at North Carolina and Duke.

First things first: the Terps.

Said Johnson: “In my mind. . . . we’re not that far away.”

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